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Ex-Northwestern star Coble says foreign-tour dispute led to exit

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Former Northwestern star Kevin Coble, who left the team in July under mysterious circumstances -- issuing only a short press-release comment about focusing on the recovery of his foot -- discussed his departure for the first time with

"One of the reasons for me leaving the team," Coble wrote in an e-mail, "was in response to repeated ultimatums by [Wildcats coach Bill] Carmody stating, 'You either go on the Italy trip, or you can't be a part of this program.'"

Northwestern embarked on a four-game exhibition tour of Italy in the final week of August, at which point Coble's surgeon -- who disagreed with NU's doctors on the length of Coble's rehabilitation from foot surgery -- had yet to clear him to play. Coble chose to remain with his family during that time and work with a therapist, effectively ending his college career. It was a decision that was received with some shock in the college basketball world, given the Wildcats have the potential to make their first NCAA tournament in school history this season.

When asked about the Coble situation at a team practice in October, Carmody told, "[Coble] came into my office, and said he wasn't going to play. So I said, 'OK.' What was I supposed to do?"

Coble, who averaged a team-high 15.5 points as a junior in '08-09, and then missed all of '09-10 with his foot injury, said he had a series of discussions with Carmody and Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips about the exhibition tour. Coble was against going on the trip even in a non-playing capacity.

"The fact was my surgeon was not releasing me to begin playing with the team until September 15th," Coble wrote. "With that, I was not comfortable being in Europe during my last stages of rehabilitation. The medical treatment plan had me working with my physical therapists until that September 15th release date. Coach Carmody and I met multiple times in July in order to reach a resolution that wouldn't be so drastic, but unfortunately we were unable to come to an agreement. I had to choose what was in the long term best interest of my foot."

Coble said he explained the situation to his teammates -- "I didn't want them to feel I was bailing on them, that there weren't reasons for it," he said -- and remains on campus at Northwestern completing his degree. He's on track to graduate in December, but said he has no immediate plan to pursue a pro career in the second half of the 2010-11 season. The Wildcats are currently 2-0 without him, and face Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday in Evanston.

Coble previously left the NU program for the first semester of the '07-08 season, to support his mother, Carlys, in Arizona while she underwent chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. The family held a celebration during this offseason to mark Carlys' third year of being cancer-free.